As many of you already know, my wife and I welcomed our second son into this world during the third week of January. Although he was considered a full term baby, he wasn’t quite ready to leave the warm confines of mama’s belly. A short time after he was born, I carried him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he stayed for eleven days learning the subtle intricacies of breathing and eating. Although the hospital was quick to assure us that this was “normal,” it didn’t make it any easier (the hospital ranks among the top 100 in the country, so who am I to argue). After a week of slow progress, he suddenly turned the corner for the best, and was able to join us at home shortly thereafter.

If any of you have had to spend an inordinate time at the hospital, it becomes abundantly clear how much today’s medical professionals depend on technology. With just a few sensors, hospital staff can measure almost all of the body’s functions at just a glance. Barcode scanners are used to monitor all patient records, banking who did what, when, into a central database. As an efficiency aficionado, I was awestruck by the precision.

In the time between chatting with the nurses, twiddling my thumbs, and watching newbie sleep, I kept coming back to the use of technology. The doctors and nurses ranged in age from early twenties to early sixties. Like all people, they ranged in disposition and attitude, from bubbly to curmudgeonly. But the one thing that became crystal clear for me is that, unquestioningly, they all used all of the technical tools given to them. Even if it were an option to not use the tools, it was out simply of the question.

Since it’s extremely hard for me to stop thinking about work (remember, I’m one of the weirdos who finds comfort in their job), I kept coming back to the same point in my head: As automotive sales professionals, we have more tools available to us today than at any other point in history. However, unlike the medical professionals I watched everyday, we don’t embrace our new tools with the same fervor. Why is that?!

Now, I’m guessing you’re waiting for me to go off on a “shiny objects” diatribe. I think enough has been written about that already. I’m going to take a different angle.

Think about all of your friends who work outside of the car business (if you don’t have any, think about your parents and their friends). What tools do they use on a day-to-day basis? Now imagine they made a conscientious decision not to use those tools. What would happen? What if the barista decided not to use the espresso machine? What if the soldier refused to carry their rifle? What if the courtroom reporter decided to use a pen and paper, and not a stenotype? What if the desk attendant of the hotel your staying at right now declined to give you a receipt? At least to yourself, you’d probably say that person isn’t doing their job. In fact, you’d probably say something much worse. Why are we any different?

Throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to see multiple dealerships from multiple angles. Whether it’s handling a dealer trade on the retail side, implementing a new technical solution on the software side, or side-by-side with a dealership partner on the consulting side, the expectation is not clear from the top-down on how technology is to be implemented inside the dealership. Despite the commitment of thousands of dollars, month-in, month-out, there is no true mandate to use the technical tools that are made available. The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of monitoring, and the lack of consistent training of these tools. If rules governing facial hair are in the employee handbook, why aren’t there rules governing the use of technology?

Let’s take the customer relationship and lead management tools for instance. We know the burden of proof the vendor get puts under by the dealer. We know the financial burden the vendor puts on the dealership. What burden is being put on the staff to fully utilize this tool? From what I’ve seen over the past decade of participating in the car business, it’s tantamount to throwing the keys to a Ferrari to an eleven year old and telling them to have fun.  Without the proper experience and training, it’s a recipe for disaster resulting in wasted money and broken hearts.

Whether it’s contact management, pricing tools, analytics services, or employing a whole cadre of consultants, one thing is clear: the act of possessing these tools does not guarantee success. Between world wars, the French committed tremendous resources to constructing sophisticated and impenetrable border defenses along what is referred to as the Maginot Line. And all the Germans had to do is drive around it. With no standard operating procedure, and no set consequences, nothing stops users from circumventing the tools.

In any business, even most dedicated of front-line staff has to know what is expected of them. Whether the policy is to achieve at all costs or follow a systematic method, the folks implementing the process need something to adhere to. Without that clear expectation, front-line managers have nothing concrete to enforce. Without that clear expectation, upper management has no way to objectively hold their managers accountable. With no finger to point with, vendors and front-line staff get replaced, thus lumping additional negative return on investment in terms of set-up fees, hiring, and firing costs. Want to stop the revolving door? Set expectations.

If they’re not already, get your people excited about the tools they have available to them. Create an environment where your employees, like the medical community, seek out new ways to utilize the systems they have available. Proactively ask vendors for training and workshops. Encourage, and even incent, your front-line staff develop standardized processes for using dealer tools. Like the espresso machine, the rifle, and the stenotype are part of the job at other organizations, let your employees know that the tools that are provided are expected to be used to the fullest extent possible. You have the tools to create and monitor success. It’s up to you to not let your business flat-line.